Google’s corporate mission is: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Facebook’s mission is: to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.

Microsoft’s mission statement is: to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

The mission statement of Amazon is: We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.

What I find interesting about these (and many other mission statements) is that they’re about empowerment. They’re about giving people greater abilities, access, and resources.

They’re also infinite in scope. There will always be more information to organize, more communities to build, more people and organizations to serve, and more selection and convenience to develop.

Moreover, these missions aren’t necessarily at odds with each other. They can all co-exist. They could cooperate with each other.

Imagine if we combined all four of these companies into one and gave them a singular mission statement. What would that look like?

Let’s pull out the key elements first:

  • organize information
  • provide useful access
  • empower people
  • build community
  • grow closer
  • achieve more
  • save money
  • expand options
  • improve accessibility

I think we can compress this a bit more since some items are related:

  • organize information
  • empower people
  • connect people
  • achieve more
  • expand options
  • improve accessibility

Ultimately I think we could compress this all the way to just one item: empower people.

I’d say this is pretty close to the mission of the Pakleds in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Samaritan Snare”:

We look for things that make us go.

Unfortunately, when the Enterprise crew tries to graciously help the Pakleds, the Pakleds kidnap the chief engineer and make him do their bidding without consent. The Pakleds don’t see a problem with this. They’re just following their normal mission.

I find it interesting that what’s missing from these mission statements (and countless others) is consent. If you think about it, there’s a certain aggressiveness and pushiness to them.

Organizing the world’s information requires capturing it. The world has a lot of information, much of it stored in people’s brains. Google’s mission as-is would require getting at these contents and making them accessible to all.

Facebook’s mission could be seen as pushing some people to connect in ways they may not want to. Does everyone want to be nudged closer together? What if some people don’t consent to that and would rather keep their distance? Communities empowered by Facebook are already impacting our lives in ways we didn’t consent to. That’s true even for people who’ve never directly participated in the service.

Where did we consent to achieving more? Not everyone wants that. Some are quite content achieving the same or less. Yet Microsoft’s mission is to give the gift of increased productivity to everyone “on the planet.” How does a child consent to this? Wouldn’t that mission eventually lead us to Borg implants from birth?

If you’re an Amazon customer, do you necessarily want the “lowest possible prices”? Is that even a good idea? What if you prefer higher quality at higher prices but with less waste, reduced environmental impact, and more sustainability? Non-customers have to endure the impacts of this mission without their consent.

Can anyone simply spin up a new global mission and foist it upon us without our consent? Yes, presently they can, and they do. And this will continue because Pakleds are abundant in the galaxy.

This non-consent aspect of corporate missions gives rise to much resistance though. Other people and organizations eventually start pushing back, especially when they’re being personally affected by missions they don’t agree with.

When someone else defines a mission whose impact will affect your life even if you never become a customer, isn’t there a part of you that wants to respond, “How dare you!” or “You arrogant bastard!” or something worse?

What’s the alternative though?

While I don’t think it’s realistic to predict all of the ripples a business may create over time, especially a big one, I do think we can at least consider the consent angle and develop less aggressive, more consent-based statements that still empower people.

At the very least, some common sense could be used. With billions of people on earth, there’s a good chance that someone will object no matter what mission statement you come up with, so it probably shouldn’t be about pushing some transformation for everyone on earth. You can limit it to those who’d accept and appreciate it.

So perhaps a better statement for Microsoft would be: to empower people and organizations who invite and appreciate Microsoft’s help and support to achieve more.

Now it’s an invitation, not something you’re forcefully ramming down my throat. I feel less resistance towards it. The revised statement would give me squishier feelings towards Microsoft. The old statement makes me feel inclined to object or at least to make jokes about it – mainly because the everyone-on-the-planet aspect is ridiculous and stupid. Maybe I’ll make it my mission to help everyone at Microsoft acknowledge this.

Here’s a thought – what if we did away with mission statements altogether? Where did those come from anyway? Don’t these trace back to religious missionaries who forcefully pushed their views on other people without consent? And military missions to fight and kill people? Why are we continuing this violent tradition?

How about if we replace mission statements with invitation statements instead? Invitations are much more agreeable. Invite people to participate in your vision to create a better future, but don’t push your vision on the whole world because people will fight you on that. If you force your mission onto people without consent, so much of your otherwise creative energy will be wasted on defending yourselves eventually, and you’ll deserve that kind of response.

Invite people to your party, but don’t make attendance mandatory, and show some respect for your neighbors who may be affected by the party.

You don’t have permission to change the whole world. Maybe you think you don’t need permission and you can do it anyway, and you can use that frame, but it will result in a rising resistance because that framing is violent. If you want to set yourself up for fight because you think it’s noble or something, that’s up to you, but then you have no right to be surprised, shocked, or outraged when people push back because that’s a predictable outcome of your framing.

It’s awesome to empower people, and kudos for doing that. But consider the benefits of inviting consent for where, when, and how you do this. If it’s a cool invitation, people will say yes and show up. And even when they decline, they may still appreciate being invited. This means less energy wasted on defending against rising resistance… and more energy you can invest in throwing bigger, better, and more interesting parties… parties that make us go. 🙂